Saturday School

Learn survival Cantonese and get oriented to the neighbourhood! Saturday School offers place-based Cantonese language learning in Vancouver Chinatown, a National Historic Site and living Cantonese community. The historic Mon Keang Chinese School is our classroom, and the area's streets, shops and spaces are our textbooks. Through guided field studies, learn about Chinatown history, community organizing, and historic and current relationships with the diverse communities that share this space. Our final exam will be a grocery shopping expedition and shared meal.

Please Note: This is a Beginner's level course designed for Adult learners, and focused on conversational Cantonese (no reading or writing).

Saturday School originally ran in 2014 as a public program of Centre A and its exhibit, M’goi/Do Jeh: Sites, Rites and Gratitudecurated by Tyler Russell. The program was guest curated by participating artist Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon 姚君妍 (a co-founder of Youth Collaborative for Chinatown), with linguist and language instructor, Zoe Lam 林慧雯 and numerous neighbourhood partners. 


Jeffery Chong poster

about mon keang chinese school

One of the first Chinese schools in the city, Mon Keang School opened in 1925 on the third floor of the Wong Benevolent Association building, one of Chinatown’s heritage-designated Chinese society buildings dating over one hundred years and located in the National Historic Site of Pender Street.

The building's use by the Mon Keang School is an important part of its heritage value. It illustrates the value overseas immigrants placed on the Chinese language and cultural education of their Canadian-born children or 土生 (Canto: tousang, Mando: tusheng, “born of the earth”). Chinese language was important to perpetuate Chinese culture, give Canadian-born children the skills required to function in a predominantly Chinese-speaking environment, and maintain intergenerational relationships within family and community. 

Mon Keang graduates include Canada’s first federally-appointed Chinese judge, Justice Randall Wong, and historian and author, Paul Yee, whose fonds at the City Archives include an exercise book and report card from his time as a student.

Mon Keang School closed its doors in 2011 due to declining enrolment and changing demographics that favour learning Mandarin over Cantonese.  



ZOE LAM 林慧雯 is a PhD Candidate in Linguistics and Lead Researcher of the Hong Kong Canada Crosscurrents project at the University of British Columbia. Her work focuses on language perception by heritage Cantonese speakers in Canada.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Zoe taught Cantonese to German expats before pursuing graduate studies. At UBC, she has been instructor of a weekly Cantonese class among fellow graduate student residents of St. John’s College. In 2015, she won First Place and People’s Choice Award in UBC’s Three-Minute Thesis Competition.         

Zoe was Guest Instructor for the community project, M’goi/Do Jeh: Sites, Rites and Gratitude, at Centre A in Vancouver Chinatown in 2014. A social activist for linguistic diversity, Zoe has spoken on the topic on CBC Radio, Fairchild Radio, LS Times TV and OMNI News, among other media outlets.